For the second straight week, Lake Clifton had a first-quarter lead over a ranked football team. And for the second straight game, the Lakers suffered defeat.
Unlike last week's lopsided loss to No. 2 Poly, the Lakers hammered No. 9 Patterson for nearly three quarters, stopping three potential scoring drives -- twice on fumble recoveries by John Evans and Tyrone Bailey, and once on an interception by Dennis Harding.
But it was the game's final 10:10 -- and touchdowns by running back Ryan Lewis and quarterback Willie McGirt -- that lifted the Clippers to a 14-6 City 4A League win over the Lakers for first place in the division.
The contest also had 4A state playoff implications. The Clippers (7-0, 5-0) were ranked first in the 4A North Region and third in the statewide chase for a spot in the eight-team field. The Lakers (5-2, 5-1) entered ranked third in the region and eighth statewide.
Lake Clifton has games left against Douglass, Northern and No. 11 Dunbar, and Patterson has top-ranked City, Forest Park and Southern.
"Lake came out right at us but we played a little tight in the first half," said coach Roger Wrenn, whose Clippers had just 84 total yards of first-half offense but 342 for the game.
McGirt, a junior, completed nine of 13 passes for 123 yards, going 5-for-5 in the second half, to raise his totals for the season to 696 passing yards (11 touchdowns). He also ran for 75 yards on seven carries.
He scored the clincher from 31 yards with nine minutes left, faking an option before rolling right. Although his body never crossed the goal line, McGirt extended the ball across before his knees touched the ground.
"I think that was the back-breaker," said Wrenn. "We played like a different team when we came out for the second half."
The game featured two of the area's best receivers in Patterson's second-team All-City Stacey Plater, and Lake Clifton's Harding. But each was double-teamed and limited to 27 yards -- Plater on three catches and Harding on one.
The Lakers also had 84 first-half yards, with 60 coming on the game's initial 13-play drive. It ended on Warren Sharpe's 2-yard touchdown run with 5:05 left in the period.
Patterson had the ball just once in the first period, moving 3 yards in three running plays before punting.
The Clippers turned the ball over twice on promising second-quarter drives. The first ended after 60 yards when Evans recovered a fumble at the Lake Clifton 16. The second ended after 37 yards with Harding's interception at the Lakers' 22.
"They're a strong team with a lot of weapons, but we had them right where we wanted them," said Harding, who has 26 receptions for 495 yards and three touchdowns. "We maybe held off a little late in the game, hoping to catch them off guard in the end -- but it didn't work."
Plater made the momentum-changing play early in the third quarter, intercepting quarterback Greate White at the Lake Clifton 36.
Nine plays later, including a 14-yard McGirt-to-Plater pass on fourth-and-2, Lewis scored his 10th touchdown of the season to tie the game 10 seconds before the fourth quarter.
Mike Jaski converted the extra-point to give Patterson the lead, 7-6.
Lewis, who rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries to raise his total to 591 yards, never crossed the plane of the goal with his body. But line judge Dwayne Hart ruled the ball had.